Environmental Management

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 321–329 | Cite as

200 years of sustainability in forestry: Lessons from history

  • K. Freerk Wiersum


Since the end of the 1980s the concept of sustainable development has gained general acceptance, but much uncertainty still exists on how to operationalize this concept. In forestry the concept of sustainability has been an accepted principle since the 18th century. The experiences with its application in forestry may contribute towards obtaining a better insight into the implications and operational significance of the concept of sustainability. This article describes the history of sustainability in forestry, including the various social values on which its interpretation has been based. The original principle of sustained yield has gradually been broadened to a more inclusive principle of sustainable forest management. The dynamics in social valuation of forest resources resulted in various attempts at practical operationalization of the principle. Notwithstanding 200 years of efforts to operationalize the concept of sustainability, its exact application in forestry remains troublesome. Three lessons are drawn: (1) the need to recognize the different nature of ecological limits and social dynamics, (2) the role of dynamic social values with respect to forest resources, and (3) the significance of operational experiences in trying to attain sustainability within a concrete context.

Key Words

Forestry history Forest management Sustained yield Sustainable development Social values 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Alston, R. M. 1992. History of sustained yield in the United States (1937–1992). Pages 19–30in Proceedings IUFRO Centennial, Interdivisional and divisional sessions of Division 6 and 4, Berlin-Eberswald, Germany.Google Scholar
  2. Arnold, J. E. M.. 1991. Community forestry, ten years in review. Community Forestry Note No. 7, FAO, Rome, Italy, 31 pp.Google Scholar
  3. Basler, E. 1977. Der forstwirtschafliche Begriff der “Nachhaltigkeit” als Orientierungshilfe in der Zivilisatorische Entwicklung.Schweitzerische Zeitschrift für Forstwesen 128:480–489.Google Scholar
  4. Bass, S. 1993. Forest resource accounting, providing forestry information for sustainable development.ITTO Tropical Forest Update 3 (4):4–5.Google Scholar
  5. Behan, R. W. 1990. Multiresource forest management: A paradigmatic challenge to professional forestry.Journal of Forestry 88:12–18.Google Scholar
  6. Brandl, H. 1992. Entwicklungslinien in Deutscher Forstwirtschaft und Forstwissenschaft mit internationaler Ausstralung. Pages 43–72in Proceedings Centennial, 100 years IUFRO, Berlin-Eberswalde, Germany.Google Scholar
  7. Brinkerhoff, D. W., and A. A. Goldsmith. 1992. Promoting the sustainability of development institutions: A framework for strategy.World Development 20(3):369–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brooks, D. J., and G. E. Grant. 1992. New approaches to forest management.Journal of Forestry 90:25–28.Google Scholar
  9. Chorley, R. J. 1973. Geography as human ecology. Pages 155–169in R. J. Chorley (ed.), Directions in Geography. Methuen & Co., London.Google Scholar
  10. DDB. 1994. Testing sustainable forest management. Report, expert group on sustainable forest management. Den Haag, The Netherlands, 29 pp.Google Scholar
  11. Dixon, J. A., and L. A. Fallon. 1989. The concept of sustainability: Origins, extensions, and usefulness for policy.Society and Natural Resources 2:73–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Douglas, J. J. 1983. A re-appraisal of forestry for development in tropical countries. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, The Netherlands, 178 pp.Google Scholar
  13. Drielsma, H. J., J. A. Miller, and W. R. Burch. 1990. Sustained yield and community stability in American forestry. Pages 55–68in R. G. Lee, D. R. Field, and W. R. Burch (eds.), Community and forestry: Continuities in the sociology of natural resources. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.Google Scholar
  14. Duerr, W. A., and J. B. Duerr. 1975. The role of faith in forest resource management. Pages 30–41in F. Rumsey and W. A. Duerr (eds.), Social sciences in forestry: A book of readings. W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  15. FAO. 1985. Tree growing by rural people. FAO Forestry Paper No. 64, Rome, Italy, 130 pp.Google Scholar
  16. FSC. 1993. Principles and criteria of natural forest management. Forest Stewardship Council, Richmond, Virginia.Google Scholar
  17. Fresco, L. O., and S. B. Kroonenberg. 1992. Time and spatial scales in ecological sustainability.Land Use Policy 9:155–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gale, R. P., and S. M. Cordray. 1991. What should forests sustain? Eight answers.Journal of Forestry 89(5):31–36.Google Scholar
  19. Gilmour, D. A., G. C. King, and M. Hobley. 1989. Management of forest for local use in the hills of Nepal. I. Changing forest management paradigms.Journal of World Forest Resource Management 4:93–110.Google Scholar
  20. Glacken, C. J. 1976. Traces on the Rhodian shore. University of California Press, Berkeley, California, 763 pp.Google Scholar
  21. Glück, P. 1987. Social values in forestry.Ambio 16(2/3):158–162.Google Scholar
  22. Gradwohl, J., and R. Greenberg. 1988. Saving the tropical forests. Earthscan, London, 207 pp.Google Scholar
  23. Gregersen, H., S. Draper, and D. Elz (eds.). 1989. People and trees: The role of social forestry in sustainable development. World Bank, Washington, DC, 273 pp.Google Scholar
  24. ITTO. 1990. ITTO guidelines for the sustainable management of natural tropical forests. ITTO Technical Series No. 5, Yokohama, Japan.Google Scholar
  25. ITTO. 1992. Criteria for the measurement of sustainable tropical forest management. ITTO Policy Development Series No. 3. Yokohama, Japan.Google Scholar
  26. Kennedy, J. J. 1985. Conceiving forest management as providing for current and future social value.Forest Ecology and Management 13:121–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Koch, N. E. and J. J. Kennedy. 1991. Multiple-use forestry for social values.Ambio 20(7):330–333.Google Scholar
  28. Leary, R. A. 1985. Interaction theory in forest ecology and management. Martinus Nijhoff, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 219 pp.Google Scholar
  29. Ludwig, D., R. Hilborn, and C. Walters. 1993. Uncertainty, resource exploitation, and conservation: Lessons from history.Science 260:17, 36.Google Scholar
  30. Maini, J. S. 1992. Sustainable development of forests.Unasylva 43(169):3–8.Google Scholar
  31. Parry, B. T., H. J. Vaux, & N. Dennis. 1983. Changing conceptions on sustained-yield policy on the national forests.Journal of Forestry 81:150–154.Google Scholar
  32. Peters, C. M., A. Gentry, and R. Mendelsohn. 1989. Valuation of an Amazon rain forest.Nature 359:655–656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Peters, W., and C. Wiebecke. 1983. Die Nachhaltigkeit als Grundsatz der Forstwirtschaft.Forstarchiv 54(5):172–178.Google Scholar
  34. Richards, M. 1993. The potential of non-timber forest products in sustainable natural forest management in Amazonia.Commonwealth Forestry Review 72(1):21–27.Google Scholar
  35. Rubner, H. 1992. Early conceptions of sustained yield for managed woodlands in Central Europe. Pages 2–8in Proceedings IUFRO Centennial, Interdivisional and divisional sessions of division 6 and 4, Berlin-Eberswald, Germany.Google Scholar
  36. Schmutzenhofer, H. 1992. IUFRO's birthday.IUFRO News 21(1&2):3.Google Scholar
  37. Sharma, N., R. Rowe, M. Grut, R. Kramer, and H. Gregersen. 1992. Conditions for sustainable development. Pages 489–513 in N. P. Sharma (ed.), Managing the world's forests; looking for balance between conservation and development. Kendall/Hunt Publ., Dubuque, Iowa.Google Scholar
  38. Shearman, R. 1990. The meaning and ethics of sustainability.Environmental Management 14(1):1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. WCED (World Commission on Environment and Development). 1987. Our common future. Oxford University Press, London, 383 pp.Google Scholar
  40. Westoby, J. 1989. Introduction to world forestry: People and their trees. Blackwell, Oxford, 228 pp.Google Scholar
  41. Wiersum, K. F. 1990. Planning agroforestry for sustainable land use. Pages 18–32in W. W. Budd, I. Duchhardt, L. H. Hardesty, and F. Steiner (eds.), Planning for agroforestry. Elsevier, Amsterdam. Developments in landscape management and urban planning No. 6C.Google Scholar
  42. Zürcher, U. 1993. Die Waltwirtschaft wird nachhaltig sein oder sie wird nicht sein.Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Forstwesen 144(4):253–262.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Freerk Wiersum
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ForestryWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations